Anarchy in Africa: U.S., U.K. Evacuate as South Sudan Spirals Out of Control UPDATE: Rebels Hit U.N. Mission
Posted on | December 19, 2013 | 29 Comments
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) December 19, 2013
The United States has evacuated non-essential personnel from its embassy in Juba, South Sudan, British nationals are being evacuated, and people are trying to make sense of the crisis that developed suddenly over the weekend:
During the final session of the National Liberation Council, one of the ruling party’s highest political organs, on December 15, there was a dispute among different elements of the Presidential Guards (Tigers) over orders to surrender their arms. According to Adwok, guards were disarmed but later the officer in charge opened the stores and rearmed only the Dinka soldiers. The Nuer guards questioned this, a fistfight ensued and more Nuer soldiers came in and broke into the stores. The Nuer soldiers managed to take control of the headquarters and the next day after some SPLA reinforcements, the mutineers were dislodged. There is no evidence of any planning, masterminding or political coordination before or during the clash.
Although ethnicity is a major factor, the crisis was actually precipitated by a deep political rift and power struggle. Yes, the President Salva Kiir is a Dinka and his rival the former vice-president Riek Machar is a Nuer. Yes, the race card is being played by both sides, and certainly it is a real dimension of the conflict especially at the ground level. But behind Riek Machar is a coalition that includes prominent Dinka politicians as well such as the former Sudanese minister of foreign affairs and the widow of the founding father of the SPLM John Garang. Other prominent non-Nuers are in the camp of the former vice president such as the now dismissed secretary-general of the ruling party, Pag’an Amum, a Shilluk.
— louis charbonneau (@lou_reuters) December 19, 2013
— NewsBreaker (@NewsBreaker) December 19, 2013
South Sudan only recently gained its independence from Sudan’s Muslim-dominated Khartoum regime, and this sudden descent into violent tribal anarchy is profoundly disappointing for those who supported Juba’s independence. The breakdown of discipline in the SPLA is particularly disturbing, and remember that South Sudan is right next to the Central African Republic:
Armed gangs are rampaging through the Central African Republic carrying out atrocities including executions and mutilations, despite the presence of French and African troops.
Reports by two leading human rights organisations say the situation in the war-torn country is spiralling out of control and requires a robust response from the international community.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International say the death toll is much higher than reported and that peacekeeping forces in the CAR must be beefed up to protect the population from further war crimes.
Have you heard anything about this on the national news? Has any reporter asked our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president about it? No, of course not. Innocent people are being slaughtered wholesale, but it’s not “news” because, hey, it’s just Africans.
On the one hand, media silence about the bloodbath in central Africa is racist, but on the other hand, it’s also “racist” to expect Obama to do something to prevent genocidal violence. So this brutality continues, and we’re not supposed to notice.
— Heather Marsh (@GeorgieBC) December 19, 2013
The United Nations says it fears casualties after attackers forced their way into a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s Jonglei state.
Rebels from the country’s second-largest ethnic group, the Nuer, attacked the base, targeting civilians of the majority Dinka ethnic community. . . .
UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters on Thursday that “fighting took place” at the compound in Jonglei.
“We fear there may have been some fatalities but can’t confirm who and how many,” he said.
The UN peacekeeping mission is sheltering civilians in five state capitals, including Juba and Bor. The attack on the Jonglei compound came after Nuer rebels seized control of Bor. Even before the unrest, Bor was seen as one of the most volatile areas of South Sudan.
Earlier, there were reports of gun battles in the town, as renegade officers fought with troops still loyal to the president.
— P_van den Ende (@DefenseInAfrica) December 19, 2013
Hearing multiple reports of fighting in Bentiu, capital of #SouthSudan's Unity state where oil fields lie, with militias & defectors vs gov.
— Hannah McNeish (@HannahMcNeish) December 19, 2013
#SouthSudan: Unrest spreads to Bentiu from Rubkona. Fighting started in Bentiu at 7:00 PM – no info about casualties (local source).
— José Vieira (@josesvieira) December 19, 2013
@rsmccain I guess it's not racist for the first black President to ignore mayhem in Africa.
— Laura Rosen Cohen (@LauraRosenCohen) December 19, 2013